By Jamie Swinnerton
By Mark Antonation
By Lori Midson
By Jonathan Shikes
By Amber Taufen
By Cafe Society
By Juliet Wittman
By Jonathan Shikes
On the one hand, I've never run a place that was shut down by the health department. On the other, I've never once had an inspection come back 100 percent green. I've had stoves red-tagged because the pilot flames kept blowing out in a bad cross draft, sinks that needed to be rebuilt because the plumbing wasn't up to code, cooks that got caught eating on the line -- a hundred different things, not one of them dangerous to the general public, but also none of them things my potential customers needed to be reading about if they didn't understand the circumstances behind the violation.
The way the system works now is good: An inspector drops by a restaurant unannounced, pokes around, sticks his nose (and his thermometer) in other people's business, then fills out a form. That form lets the restaurant know what's right and what's wrong and what needs to be fixed before he comes back -- usually in a week or so -- for a followup. If a restaurant owner and his staff fix what's wrong (and if nothing new has gone wrong in the interim), then everything is fine. They get their new inspection sticker and are in the clear until the next inspection, six months to a year away. If they haven't fixed the problems -- or if the original problem was so serious that it was posing a danger to the public -- the place gets shut down. And when a place gets shut down by the health department, everyone knows it. A big red sticker appears on the door, the lights go out, the doors are locked, and it's pretty obvious to anyone walking by that some serious bad news is going down.
Leftovers:Not far from the Pho 2000/Asia Noodle Restaurant neighborhood in Aurora, Kabul Kabobhas opened at 11002 East Yale Avenue. If you're never tried Afghan food before, its flavors come in perfect relation to its place in the geographical spectrum -- somewhere between Indian and Middle Eastern, with a touch of Far East mountain cooking and a heft that reflects Tajik and Uzbek traditions in the old Soviet Union. Afghan food is nuts, rice, kabobs and dumplings when you get right down to it -- and it's damn good.
A little further afield, Pravdaopened this past Friday at Copper Mountain. Despite the distance, the restaurant is worth noting for two reasons. First, a forty-label-strong exclusive vodka menu served in an atmosphere that rips off all the best of the old Cold War commie shtick that I love so much. Propaganda posters, security guards dressed in KGB trenchcoats.... Call me a sucker, but it's a theme that hasn't yet been exploited to death. And second, I just like the name.
Closer to home, Potager (1109 Ogden Street) has done some spring cleaning. To quote from the new menu: "In the kitchen we have lost interest in stews and braises for the moment, as greens, lettuces and spring vegetables find their way to our plates from the farms and markets." Lost interest in stews and braises for the moment -- I like how that sounds, and love a kitchen that does its own thing whenever the mood strikes. Potager's new board of fare includes fresh asparagus soup; Bellwether Farms fresh ricotta-cheese gnocchi with fava beans; homemade ravioli with buche des causses goat's-milk cheese fresh from the Loire Valley; Camembert-crowned Meyer lemon and English-pea risotto; roast suckling pig; and wilted savory greens cooked with garlic and lemon.
Tranquili-tea Tea Room(4615 East Colfax Avenue) is now pouring afternoon tea Sunday through Thursday for those who find such a thing appealing. And for those who thirst for something stronger, my many spies report that the Qdoba at 1400 East 17th Avenue -- and that Qdoba only -- is selling buck bottled beers (including Mexican varieties) from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. seven days a week. Even better, the outlet is thinking of extending the deal until 8 p.m. sometime soon, depending on how business picks up.
And finally, the Best of Denver curse that did in Bistro 250last week continues, with the Parlour Bar and Grill (846 Broadway) now going dark. I'd given the Parlour the nod for Best Use of Mexican Food in a Non-Mexican Restaurant for its excellent shrimp enchiladas, but unless you jumped right on this little tidbit and hustled over to try that dish fast, you missed the boat.
The space, which did business originally as the Parlour -- a favorite watering hole for cops, newsmen and neighborhood types -- became Basil Ristorantein the late '90s, with the northward migration of staff and owners from Basil Pasta Bar down Broadway. Last summer, owner Peter Wolfgang Schlichtdecided to do a retro turn, closing briefly for some renovations and a menu overhaul, then opening back up in September under the name Parlour Bar and Grill. The trouble was, no matter what you called the place or how it was decorated, the Parlour suffered from some very slow nights. And as of last week, the newest piece of embellishment was the brass-trimmed sign hung by the front door thanking the Parlour's patrons for all the good times and announcing that the doors were closed for good.
Before the ink was even dry on the Parlour's Best of Denver 2003 plaque, too.